France widens restrictions to more regions as epidemic situation worsens

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PARIS, March 25 (Xinhua) — French Health Minister Olivier Veran on Thursday announced “reinforced braking measures” in three more COVID-19 high-risk regions — Rhone, Aube and Nievre — in a bid to contain a third wave of the pandemic.

“The epidemic situation is not good. The trend is on the rise almost everywhere in France even if the level of virus circulation remains different from one region to another,” warned Veran.

Starting from Friday midnight, outdoor gatherings are limited to six people in these three departments, and daytime travel less than 10 km from home is allowed while those within a 30-km radius of a person’s home require a signed document.

Inter-regional travel will be banned but schools will remain open with reinforced health protocol, according to the minister.

The new restrictions are set to last for at least four weeks, which officials hope will be enough time to ease pressure on hospitals while more people get vaccinated.

Last week, France imposed similar rules in 16 departments, including Paris and its surrounding areas to curb the spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants and relieve strained hospital system.

In the weekly briefing on the coronavirus situation, Veran told reporters that “in the coming days, health pressure will continue to increase,” notably in the greater Paris region, where the situation is “critical.”

On Thursday, a further 45,641 people have diagnosed with COVID-19, the highest one-day increase since Nov. 17, 2020.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, some 4,424,087 people have caught the disease in the country, of whom 93,378 have died, up by 225 within a day.

Some 160 patients were admitted to hospitals in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 27,036. Of those hospitalized, 4,709 people were in intensive care.

The daily figures “show the new wave we have entered, and we haven’t gone out yet,” Veran said.

The minister, however, expected a gradual return to normalcy by summer thanks to vaccination, urging people “to hold on for a few weeks.”

So far, 7,168,437 people in the country have received at least one injection, or 13.6 percent of the adult population. Some 2,610,990 people have got the two shots, representing 5.0 percent of the adult population, according to data released by the Health Ministry.

The French government aims to vaccinate 10 million citizens by mid-April, 20 million by mid-May and a total of 30 million, or two-thirds of the adults, by summer. It has already approved the use of four vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.

“By mid-April, we will have vaccinated more than 10 million people. New vaccines will arrive…We will meet the target,” the minister said. Enditem

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